Waccabuc, New York, is home to a recently completed (2011) two story modern house that borrows the name of its location – the Waccabuc House. Designed and constructed by Architect Chan-li Lin of Rafael Vinoly Architects on a 3.25 acre site, this modern residence on top of a hill gives the impression of being a comfortable tree house. Placed at the end of a 1,000 foot-long dirt road, the Waccabuc House was built on the remains of an abandoned single story volume from 1954. This challenged the architects to design a home that would encompass the main living spaces in a volume floating above the ground, surrounded by tall trees and flooded by naturally filtered natural light.
Here is how the architects explain the custom architecture: “The second floor structure is a pair of lightweight floor-height steel trusses supported on six columns pinned to the rock ledge below. The cantilevered ends extend twenty feet beyond the supports, forming a carport to the east and a covered porch to the west. The first floor is nestled into the existing rock outcroppings and site contours and was constructed using conventional 2×6 wood framing.” With an east-west orientation, the single family residence gathers views from all angles and the first floor cantilevers over the terrace, providing shade. Radiant heat pipes embedded in the polished concrete floors offer comfort while maintaining a modern set of interiors. Wood, stucco and glass were used to create an expressive collection of details strongly linked to the outdoor, while the difference between the horizontally cladded dark cantilevering volume and the vertically clad first floor creates a powerful first impression.
Energy during the construction process was saved by using FSC-certified glulam timber instead of steel to create the building’s distinctive wavy roof, while the store’s external walls use hemclad, a highly innovative insulator made from hemp, which, like all plants, absorbs CO2 from the atmosphere as it grows. An 80,000 litre water tank below ground provides water for the store’s toilets and waters the site’s green wall’, which provides natural insulation, acts as an all-natural pollution filter near the car park, and helps to encourage biodiversity. The result is a building that uses a fraction of the energy of structures of a similar size, and is still very popular with local shoppers.
What is new and exciting now can quickly begin to look tired and out of fashion, so the best buildings don’t just consider what will be interesting to look at now, but also how it might look to people in five, fifty or even a hundred years’ time. 2013’s hotly contested RIBA Stirling Prize went to Witherford Watson Mann Architects for their work on Astley Castle, Warwickshire. In what RIBA Past President Stephen Hodder has described as an extreme retrofit, the project essentially saw a new building inserted subtly into the heart of the old, with a new, two storey residence now hidden within the sandstone walls of the ruins of this medieval castle, to be used as a holiday home for up to eight guests